Monday, December 29, 2014

Goodbye 2014

When I am happy, I often have little to say, oddly enough. I write less and just enjoy living my life more. These past few months have slipped by in a happy blur. Life has a pleasant rhythm, most days, and my children are growing up. I see it in my son, who works on projects independently now, and in my daughter who is talking a blue streak. We are in a season of quiet growth, and it is the first time in years that I feel like I can breath again.

I still have intense children. Two. My mom said something when she came down about Kitty, "So she's a handful too, hmmm?" And honestly, until that point, I had never considered her one because to me, compared to Raccoon, she seemed so different and honestly, much easier. But it made me think, and since June, I've realized that Kitty has her own set of needs which can be time-consuming and demanding as well. I have two strong-willed children. No wonder I'm tired at night. But I love both of my bright, intense, busy children very much. I am grateful to have them.

Grace. 2014 has been so full of grace.

I think my word for 2015 is going to be roots. I just want to settle in to this new life we have, to really ground my children in the things that matter. To focus on the present and not always be looking ahead.

Thank you, Jesus, what a wonderful year. Not without it's bumps, but good, nonetheless.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Waiting for Puppies

I have two very, very fat dogs. Tomorrow is Storm's duedate. Any guesses how many she'll have? Mine is four.

Jewel unfortunately mated with Peluche, my friend's dog. At the time, I was furious. I let her out one door and followed not two minutes later, and there they were, all tied up. But on Thursday, Peluche was poisoned and died. It comforted my friend to think that she can have one of Peluche's sons, and hopefully he'll be as special to her as his father was.

So good comes, even from my soon-to-be mutt puppies.

Much else has happened, but Kitty is ready for nite-nite. Sometimes, I cannot write of the big things, only the little ones. And I write much of my pets becaue I'm not worried that someday they'll be embarrassed that their stories are online. :)

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Donut Story

A little more than ten years ago, my husband and I flew to Florida from Oregon for spring break. We had just bought a new video camera, state of the art, and I used it all week, recording mundane conversations and a few great nuggets with my grandparents. The other day I grabbed the camera from storage, knowing that I could watch the obsolete tapes on its mini-screen. I woke up thinking of my Grammie and wanting to hear her voice again. She had this great laugh. The first few minutes of the tape I chose had my favorite story she used to tell me all the time about donuts.

One day, she and I went to the grocery store, or it might have been my brother, none of us remembers, but there is my Grammie with a small version of one of us, and outside the grocery store, the delicious smell of fresh donuts.

"Oh, Grammie, smell the donuts!" one of us exclaimed.

She was so impressed that neither my brother nor I ever asked for treats, no matter how good they smelled, that from there on she bought us donut holes for breakfast every time we were at her house in the morning. We thought she was the best Grammie ever, donuts for breakfast!!

If I ever came into money, I would buy her old house, just for the happy memories. Christmas at her place was amazing. And Thanksgiving. And a lobster dinner every time we were going away to South America.

I love you, Grammie, thank you, and I miss you. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Ducks RIP

Since moving here in February, we have lost one puppy, one hamster, four ducks, and nine chicks. Our dogs have been fine around our fowl for three weeks, but for some reason, this morning they snapped. Either that or another dog came in and did the damage, but that seems unlikely. Twelve chickens have survived, plus one who I don't think will make it through the night. Down from 20 fowl. All four ducks are dead, plus three chickens.

I felt sad, burying their fat, little bodies in our garden. But more than that, I feel discouraged that none of my projects seem to be working out.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Pondering: The Danger of Quick Money

"A hardworking person inherits and thinks they are rich.  They quit work and start spending the funds.  In a few years, they are not only broke, but now they are lazy as well."

James Twining

My "If I Won the Lottery" Bucket List:

Not be lazy, nor raise lazy kids :)
Tithe
Gifts to Family
Buy a house for my parents
Travel with family

I've read of several billionaires lately who want to give their fortunes away. I wish one of them would donate a nice sum to our nonprofit. We would love to buy a building for  evangelism, counseling, a Bible school, an early education center, a food pantry, and a clothes closet. Sort of like a Christian community center.

But money is not the answer, Jesus is. No matter what, I am incredibly happy and grateful for my more-than-enough life.



Sunday, November 30, 2014

Remembering

First, a little celebration. I did Nablopomo with only three backdated posts, hooray!

Yesterday was Madeleine L'Engle's birthday. She is one of my favorite writers. Fiction, reflection, memoir, poetry, she loved to write. She also raised a family and had her most well-known book rejected 30 times.

Today, as always, I think of my two little girls, N and J. It's been 6 years to the day since they lived with us, and I still miss them. I wish with all my heart that I could get a redo. I hope they are well and happy. I pray for them. They've probably forgotten me, but I will never forget them.
I saw this candle when I was unpacking my Christmas box today. I've had it since I was a little girl. A smaller candle nestles in front.

"Oh, her arms are empty," I thought, "The baby bear must have gotten lost." My three girls came to mind, and sadness swept over me. They, too, are gone from my life.


At the bottom of the box, to my surprise, I found the baby bear candle. When I put them together, I felt a whisper in my heart, saying, "You'll see your girls again someday."
 
I hold onto hope. As Paul says, we do not grieve as the world does, and I am so thankful for that.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Two Tree Tradition

Since his second Christmas, Raccoon has always wanted his own tree, a little cedar and I get a large pine. This year, I fully expected Kitty to want her own tree too, but thankfully she was happy with a few loose branches.

The kids lose intetest in hanging ornaments pretty quickly, but guess who thought the big tree was just for him? I'm glad I tied it to the wall!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Duck, Duck, Chicken

Our little flock of 12 chickens and 2 ducks all survived the night. No one ecaped the coop last night and the dogs are behaving themselves, so all is well in birdland.

The coop is now our favorite place in the yard to hang out. There is always a little hen drama happening. At least I'm hoping they are hens. We'll have to eat the roosters if there are too many. The goal this time is eggs.

This post is to celebrate joy in the little things, like smiles on my kids' faces as they watch their new feathered friends.

In two and a half weeks, we will also be having adventures and trials in puppyland. Any guesses on how many? I think 8 total, 4 from Jewel and 4 from Storm.

Break's over. Back to school.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving and I Miss My Family

My family is just about to sit down to an afternoon Thanksgiving meal, and I am not there. I miss them.

I am thankful that I have a family that I miss.

I am thankful that we had turkey, and that we have enough to eat every single day.

I am thankful for my children who remind me of what is truly important.

I am thankful for fuzzy socks, pregnant dogs, and two new ducklings. Who knew they were so different then chicks? They have long, downy bodies with tiny wings and big bills. I hope they make it through the night since Raccoon didn't want to put them in with the chickens.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Holiday Season Here We Go!

After a bout of grinchiness yesterday, I am feeling better and ready to dive in to the holiday madness. We're actually doing Thanksgiving this year with some friends. Since I cannot cook, she is going to do the food and I will entertain the kids.

Raccoon and I have exactly 99 days of school left. I mention that because I'm counting tomorrow as a school day. I figure it is an important cultural experience. School on Thanksgiving, yup, that's the way we roll.

But even as I think about celebrating tomorrow, I know there are a lot of families grieving the loss of their loved ones who won't be sitting at the table this year. I pray for them as they fight through the holidays and special times to come.

How amazing heaven and being with Jesus must be. I do not wish SB back, but I long for the day when we will all be together, and everything will make sense.

Until then, merriness with compassion.

Think of someone who might be sad this Christmas and spend some time with them: the elderly, the sick, the grieving, and travellers far from home. Be nice to store clerks. Forgive those nearest you.

As Raccon says, only one more sleep!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

One month 'til Christmas

November 25. Two days until Thanksgiving. A month to Christmas. Three of our family's birthdays also come in the next two months.

Maybe this year we'll go to the beach, escape it all.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Scale

This morning, I saw a plum-sized spiderweb near the light in my bathroom, covered in tiny flies.That spider may be small, but it's certainly successful.

It is easy for me to think of God as infinitely big, yet looking at the details on bugs in pictures from an electron microscope (thank-you, Raccoon), I also realized that nothing is too small for God. The feathering of their six legs, the fragmentation of their wings, they really are works of art.

To take such care with things mostly unseen, how amazing. Even God's bugs are beautiful. I would have cut a few corners there, but nothing is too small for Him. That tiny spider in my bathroom has as detailled a life as his foot-long cousin, the goliath bird-eating tarantula, that lives in the Amazon jungle.

Some of us are given large lives, to be played out on the stage of the world. Others, like me, are given small lives, played out mostly at home with an audience of three. Today, looking up at the light, I realized that both are masterpieces; the only difference is scale.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pine Trees

Kitty had a bad night, then woke up around 5:30 am. We checked on our six new chicks, all still alive after their first night in the henhouse, then took the dogs for a walk. Breakfast, a bath, then we arrived at church half an hour early. Good stuff.

Afterwards, we went to a pine forest park, one of the only ones I've ever been to in a region dominated by eucalyptus trees. Both pines and eucalyptus were imported, but the pines didn't do as well in the high altitude. It smelled like my home state, Maine.

I hope we can take Raccoon and Kitty camping sometime in the US, so they'll remember the smell of pine trees too.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Fear of Success

I finished the first draft of my novel on November 13, a little more than a month after I started writing it. It needs a lot of rewriting, but the bones are there. At this point, I'd be embarrassed if even my mom read it.

Still, like any aspiring author, I dream of it being a success, a best-seller made into a great movie. I would not be surprised if I failed, but I am scared of success. Failure means life will go on, while success could change everything.

I mostly think about the pressure successful writers feel to continue producing, of being marketable and profitable. Of initial success and subsequent failure. Public interest in my private life.

There is also wild success which is even more complicated, or failed success - being published and no one reading my book.

I do not want to self-promote. I am awkward in interviews, shy and nervous. I have no fashion sense and I'm overweight. Not that this affects the quality of my writing, but me, famous? I'd rather hide under my bed.

And maybe I'm just flattering myself, but it's in my nature to imagine as many possibilities as I can.

Just the thought of a public life makes me want to stop writing. Right now, I do it only for myself. I have no audience and no worries. Maybe I'll do the Emily Dickinson thing and just leave my stories behind when I go.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thankful for Farmers

I have been trying my hand at a little vegetable garden, and it's not going so well. I have a few corn sprouts, a few peas, scallions, chochos, and broccoli. But not really enough survivors of anything to make me feel like it's worth it.

Thinking of farmers producing food for entire countries, I admire them tremendously. It seems hard to break even as a farmer. The few things I've tried, like chickens, ended up costing me more than if I had just bought them at the supermarket.

Regardless, we have ventured into chickenland again, buying 6 decent size chicks and 4 just hatched chicks. So we brought ten home, nine made it to bedtime, and we'll see how many wake up tomorrow morning. Babies of all kinds need their mommies. Poor chick got squashed by his boxmates. I ended up mixing the large and small chicks because the little guys just couldn't stay warm on their own. We are officially irresponsible, impulse buying chick owners. Sorry little guys.

Kitty was so excited to have chickens again that I had to hide them to get her to eat supper. Raccoon was happy, briefly, but has already moved on to the next thing he wants - a goose.

It seems an appropriate month to say, thank-you farmers for your hard work that fills my table with good food.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book Notes: How to Kill a Unicorn

by Mark Payne, founder of Fahrenheit 212

Book Subtitle: How the world's hottest innovation factory builds bold ideas that make it to market.

Favorite Quotes:

On whatever innovation challenge you're trying to crack, look for that distinctive set of problems that your competitors aren't working on... Unique problem sets can't help but spawn unique answers. The odds are good that you, too, will soon experience the sort of calm excitement that comes with seeing the obvious for the first time.

Potential for change is the reason we get goose bumps from great insights - they hurl open the gates to new possibilities that weren't visible before.

Humans innovating for humans can get pretty far using their humanity.

A successful two-sided innovation requires:
   - a great idea that opens up big new possibilities for both consumers and the companies that serve them.
   - a great product (or better yet a family of them expanding over time) delivering on the possibilities and promises embedded in the idea, and
   - a great business shaped around that idea and product


My Thoughts

As a stay-at-home mom with young kids who has nothing to do with the business world, I'm quite sure that I'm not the target for this book, but I liked it anyway. His writing-style and examples were very understandable for a newbie, and he included what I like best: stories. I think that his innovation model would work for any organization wanting to break new ground.

His five main ideas are:

1) Look for a two-sided win/win (i.e. for the business and for the consumer)

2) Aim for low business disruption combined with high market disruption (something the company can already do that creates a new, desirable product)

3) Ask transformational questions (look for problems your competitors aren't trying to solve)

4) Use a spatula (turn weaknesses into strengths)

5) Insight = Truth (look for unresolved tensions and company/consumer pain points, hear what people do not say)

His company has helped the underdogs and the big dogs in the business world, and it sounds like an amazing place to work. He could have kept what he's learned to himself, but he didn't, and I admire that. Companies want to make more money, and consumers want better products and benefits. Payne's approach is an inspiring way to make this happen for both sides. Although his ideas may seem obvious and simple, they are revolutionary and took time to develop. As Galileo said, "All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them."




I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sick Day

I think a husband who comes home early to help his sick wife with the kids deserves a medal.

'Nuff said.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I am a Special Needs Mom

Sometimes I forget that I am a special needs mom, until I see an invitation for an alumni dinner and realize how impossible it would be for me to go. I feel so jealous when I see posts on Facebook about date nights or babysitters. My husband and I don't get nights out, or any time to ourselves, for that matter. One of us has to be fully present all the time, and even when we're both "on duty," it's often not enough.

It wouldn't seem like two kids would be that challenging, but with sensory issues, food allergies, extreme extroversion, and other exceptionalities, life has been really hard lately. We are exhausted. We know we need self-care, we just don't have time for it. Family tries to help us out, but if it's a bad day (which it often is), all bets are off.

I only have two plates spinning in the air - home and our non-profit - but I feel like both of them are about to break. For one of the first times ever, I wish we could just skip Christmas, or put it off a few more months. We could use a vacation, but if we spend 6 hours in the car getting there, it will be more like a nightmare. Figuring out food in new places is always hard, and often the risk outweighs the benefits, so we just stay home.

I cannot pause our lives. We must soldier on, praying that in the end, our kids will be okay. Please, Lord, let them be okay.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Adventures in Potty Training

Kitty decided on Saturday that she didn't want to wear her diaper anymore. She had a few accidents, then on Sunday she made it to the bathroom, and has been dry every since. Hooray! Raccoon was three when completely potty trained, so I wasn't planning on starting with Kitty for awhile. My baby is quickly leaving the baby stage. Soon I will have a potty-trained, weaned, and independent little love. I am a little sad, but mostly excited. Naptime is also on the short list of things soon to go. That, I am a little less willing to part with. But all change comes with good and bad.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Well is Running Dry

It's halfway through Nablopomo and I missed another day, today. Super editor to the rescue!!! Our internet has been sketchy this month, my phone battery died, and my daughter is fighting naptime. All of these things do not encourage daily posts. But in the spirit of perserverance, I shall continue on.

I want to go to the beach. For some reason, it gets to be this time of year and I become consumed with waves, sun, and vacation. But then I think of 6 hours in the car, and I feel less inclined to go.

My husband is the pastor of our church, but Kitty and I spend hardly any time actually in church. Yesterday, she was especially cranky so we went for a walk. The church dog followed us and then crossed an intersection and ran away. Thankfully she came back later. But even though I only made it through a few of the songs, I was thinking about how fleeting this life is, and how exciting life after death will be, with Christ. I think of all the things He created in this world and how He made us, and I wonder what we will build and create together in heaven. This life is not the end.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Two Fish Tipping Point

I cannot say much, but two little guppies may have opened a door I have long been knocking at in search of family reconciliation. I saw a niece tonight - she came by to say thank you - who has grown from little girl to young lady without me, and hugging her was sweet indeed.

In the right Hands, two fish can go a long way, and I hope that our reconciliation becomes complete. I will not stop knocking, and maybe sending more fishy gifts.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Things My Children Have Taught Me

1) Go outside more - I've always been an introverted bookworm (are there extroverted ones, I wonder?), but my kids are very active and experiencial. Sometimes the only place I can handle their energy is in the great outdoors.

2) Appreciate my squishy parts - Being a mom has changed things about my body in ways that make me sigh, but they fight over who gets to put their head on my flabby arms and jiggly belly. They love me, wiggles and all.

3) Laugh more - most things could be worse and probably have been, I'm just glad my last two kids are still by my side.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Five Minutes of Quiet

Both of my children have gone off to the store with Daddy to get eggs, bread, and treats. It is perfectly quiet in my house, something it rarely is. What should I do with my five minutes? Something besides a blog post, I'm sure.

Maybe a shower, or I could stretch out on my bed and close my eyes for five blissful mintues, or I could just stare off into nowhere. I'm going to see if there is enough water pressure to kick on our hot water heater. For a few quality minutes of alone time, shower wins.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Insight

It can be defined as discovering hidden truths. C.S. Lewis also described humor as truth-telling.

I have set 3 big goals to accompish by Christmas:

Raccoon will recognize all 26 letters of the alphabet.

Kitty will be diaper-less.

I will keep track of how many days in a row I don't yell at my kids, until I reach 365 (hopefully by Christmas 2015).

To reach these big goals, especially 1 and 3, I need to figure out the assets I can leverage. Repetition is not working for Raccoon. I need to engage his imagination. And what can I do for more self-control? My triggers are excessive noise, simultaneous needs, and constant mess clean-up.

The thinking has begun. Insights to follow, I hope.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Writing fiction as a parent...

is more complicated then in my pre-kid life. I could write anything then. Now I think of my children. What kind of an example, or message, is my story going to give them? Would I want them to copy the things my characters do? My days of just wanting to tell a good story have gotten more complicated.

Since reading If God is Good, I have been thinking more about the role of suffering in each of our lives. As I was thinking about this, I read a quote today by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., "No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of."

I told my son a little of my story, but he doesn't want anybody to die. But in some ways, I think bad things happening in stories is a way for us to process those challenges as well, to think what would I do? How would I react?

This post isn't done but my kid-free time is. More to come later, perhaps.



Monday, November 10, 2014

Too Tired to Post

Five years ago was the last time I got any real sleep. There has been a night or two here and there, but an entire month of good sleep? Dream on. :)

I find myself not caring about things that used to bother me, like missing puzzle pieces and meals at odd hours.

Kitty is asserting her personhood and her little sister I-have-a-right-to-everything-he-has. I see potty training in our near future.

I am so ready to fully arrive at the "big kid" stage. I know I'll just worry about other things, but I hope at least to sleep at night.

If you can't tell, it's been one of those "drink from the tea pot" kind of days.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

When Things Go Wrong

I'm a rose-colored dreamer by nature. I see only the good in things, until they go terribly wrong. Like my puppy project. Two dogs in heat was utter chaos, and they mated with so many dogs, I will probably have to find good homes for ten mutts or more. Instead of being a blessing, it's a burden.

Hare-brained schemes have a long history in my family, but I still have trouble resisting the allure of a new project. My heart rushes in before my brain thinks things through. As I get older, my projects get more complicated and involve more people. And my failures run between light disappointment to deep regret.

Lord, save me from myself.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Childhood

Raccoon is five. Kitty is amost two. These are the golden years of their childhoods. I want them to:

Know the scent of apple blossoms

Sled down a snowy hill

Be best friends, most of the time

Go to the beach after Christmas

Have imaginary friends and secret hideouts

Climb trees

Ride bikes

Learn to swim

Spend their summers reading

Smell fresh cut grass

Sleep in a tent

Eat lobster with their grandparents

Know where home is

Have a furry best friend

Paddle a canoe

Conquer their fears

Sleep on the sea

Feel proud of themselves when they learn new skills

Persevere and triumph in the little things

Always know that they are my treasures



Thursday, November 6, 2014

Book Notes: If God is Good

by Randy Alcorn


Favorite Quotes:

“…I would rather be a leper who knows Christ than be completely whole and a stranger to His grace.”

“Post-Christian era – People suppose the Christian faith has been tried and found wanting, when in fact, to paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, they have been repeatedly told it’s wanting and therefore have never tried it.”

“I usually enjoy the research and writing I do, but at times it’s very difficult. I do it anyway because I anticipate the reward that could never come without paying the price.”

“Suffering reminds us to stop taking life for granted and to contemplate the larger picture.”

“Perhaps one day we’ll learn how many times God refused Satan’s requests to bring greater temptations and hardships upon us.”

“God knows everything, including every contingency, and he knows what is ultimately best in ways we cannot. God can see ultimate purposes and plans that we can’t. He can know it is better for someone to die now rather than later: “The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil” (Isaiah 57:1).”

"...but howsoever Thou dealest with me, only help me to continue to be perfectly satisfied with Thy holy will.” - George Mueller

"Emmanuel Ndikumana was nineteen years old when he heard that a group of young men in Burundi had planned to murder him in two weeks. He chose to stay where he was and survived the attempted murder through God’s amazing providence. When telling his story, Emmanuel made this enlightening comment: “You Americans have a strange attitude toward death; you act as if it is the end.”"



What I Thought:

“If God is Good” reads like a comprehensive textbook on what the author calls “the theology of suffering.” In short, the author argues that any suffering that brings us to Jesus is good, in an eternal sense, because hell is real. He says, and I agree, that the modern Christian church does not teach us enough about evil and suffering, so when they come, we falter. “Losing your (false) faith may be God’s gift to you,” Alcorn suggests in Chapter 1.

Was it worth reading? Yes, but I recommend it before crisis time. I wish it had contained early on a more concise explanation of how this statement of his is true: “The Christian worldview concerning this central problem is utterly unique. When compared to other belief systems, it is singularly profound, satisfying, and comforting.“ I saw the truth right off, but with statements like, “Secondary evils point to primary evil, reminding us that humanity, guilty of sin, deserves suffering,“ it took awhile to get to the comfort part. And it is comfort in the sense of an antibiotic given by mouth to a sick child, necessary but bitter.

My favorite parts were the stories. I have seen the truth of his statement that “God often uses people in direct proportion to their suffering.” In many cases, we may never know the why, and it is only possible to have faith that, as the author says, “the future will fully vindicate God’s righteous integrity and the wisdom of his plan,” and “suffering while trusting God gives us eternal benefits that otherwise couldn’t be ours, enlarging our capacity for eternal joy.”

This book contains no watered-down Christianity, but a thought-provoking challenge to remember the urgency of the question, “Why?” and that Jesus is the answer.



I was provided with a free copy of this book by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Lost Power but Typing On

We had no power all day, so I'm backdating this post. The power of the editor. :)

Thunderstorm season has started in earnest and my little garden is struggling valiantly against the flood.

Interesting fact of the day: I went to a chicken processing plant and waited in line two hours for a pound of gizzards for my children, who eat them like candy. My son later said they were delicious. All I know is that they seemed fresh. Kitty was with me, patient girl. Next time, we'll go at 8 am to beat the line.

I have other thoughts in my head, but they are all reserved for other projects, and so ends my most pathetic (hopefully) post for Nablopomo. Lol.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Little "I Want To"

I have been keeping a notebook of ideas for stories since 2007, and I decided about a month ago that it was finally time to see if I could flesh them out into a novel. Or maybe I should write a book about trying to write a book, "The Year I Wrote a Book." Lol. But it feels so good to wake up my creative side again. It has been a decade or so of "Must Do" and "Should Do" so throwing in a little "I Want To" after the kids are asleep has been great.

I love to write. And I love to read. I have read a lot of fiction. A lot. So many things have been done before, some well, some not. Where is my story's niche? But no matter how familiar the material, I remind myself that it is possible to fall in love with the characters, think Twilight for vampires and Temeraire for dragons. And so I'm focusing on the story I want to tell, instead of discouraging myself with thoughts like, "Why does the world even need another book?"

35,854 words done, and another 35k to go. Like my favorite English teacher said, I'm trying to make every word count. We'll see if anything comes of it besides my own personal happiness. :)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Confessions of an SPD Mom

My son has Sensory Processing Disorder. This morning we went for a walk as a family, and happened upon a neighbor going our way. My husband chatted with him for about a block or so, which caused my son to have a meltdown. He sat down and refused to walk, then did walk but covered his ears the whole time and said, "Too much talking! I can't take it!"  

He still likes to throw himself down on the ground and can be rough with his friends. He frequently feels out of sorts. He chews on his clothes and anything wood or plastic. He still eats a limited diet, governed by texture, temperature, appearance, and familiarity. When I try to get him to write, he turns into a human noodle. He is alternately exhausted and supercharged, with no happy medium.

I expect more of him, now that he is five, somehow an important milestone to me. I find myself telling him more often to control his body, to calm down, to think about what he's doing. When he has a public meltdown, I feel embarrassed now, like it is a poor reflection of my parenting. And I have begun to make comments like, "You're five now!" or "You're making a big deal out of nothing, this is not worth that much fuss!"

He still needs more and more and more. By the end of the day, or sometimes even half-way through, both my husband and I are worn out from his intense emotions and constant demands.

We signed him up for a taekwondo class three times a week, which we are committed to despite the commute. We hope that it will help give him some of the physical input he needs since occupational therapy is not available here. During the first class, he ignored the teacher's instructions and was frequently off in his own world. He was thrilled with the class, but I worried about all the ways he did not conform. I am a rule-following people pleaser, while my son marches to his own drum.

I love that about him. I want to preserve that. I don't want to scare or threaten him into conformity. I still want to teach him to be respectful and polite, but I don't want him to lose himself by trying to please others, especially me. I can be overbearing and impatient as a mother. I often want peace at any cost.

We almost didn't survive his first year. Two and three eased up a bit, inch by inch. During his fourth year, I saw huge leaps and I convinced myself that the SPD would soon be a thing of the past. But with homeschooling and increased social expectations, I think five may be our most challenging year yet.

I need to take a deep breath and let go of my expectations. I need to figure out what I am going to say to strangers and family and people at church, in English and in Spanish, since his SPD is here to stay. I need to show my son my pleasure in him. More smiling eyes and less hairy eyeballs. I want him to love himself, not to feel like he isn't good enough. To build him up and not tear him down when he makes mistakes.

And to have more fun together. In our home, I am The Enforcer. I need to tell myself what I tell my son, "Relax, it's no big deal," because most things have a solution and it's not anger. I need more grace and patience and joy. I especially need to let go of other people's opinions. I can't discipline the SPD out of him. My job is to worry about what my son needs, not what other people think of my parenting. Help me, Lord, to raise my son in a way that encourage his creative, sensitive spirit to flourish.

That should be my SPD Mom Manifesto.

 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Rainy Season is Here!

Time for puddle stomping and thunderstorms. There were three dead june bugs in my boots.

My mom used to let my brother and I dance in the rain in Texas, much to the envy of our neighborhood friends, faces pressed to their windows.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Nablopomo Here We Go!

For the past six years, November has been the worst month of the year for me. But this year, I feel peaceful, undisturbed even, that it is now November.

Perhaps this has something to do with the Christmas decorations going up everywhere. There is no Halloween or Thanksgiving here, so after Back-to-School, it's Christmas! November here is really just pre-December, which is my favorite month of the year.

Two months back-to-back, but so very different. I think much of life is like this. Push and pull. Paradox. Death giving life.

I took this picture because this is the exact mirror I stared into unhappily for many years. How did I end up here? I used to look into my own eyes and wonder. But I'm not sad in the reflection anymore. Loss and I are still friends, and we hang out from time to time. But this November I am happy, and that is something to celebrate. And my third year of Nablopomo. :)



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Puppies for Christmas

Remembet Storm? Look at her now!

I wasn't sure about mating her, not knowing the state of her insides, but I would rather have German Shepherd puppies then random street dog pups.

If all goes well, we'll have puppies mid-December. I plan to sterilize her after that, but I wanted Raccoon and Kitty to have the fun of a litter of puppies.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Happy Day

We stayed home today. It was nice to visit our little cornfield to check on our sprouts, to water our flower and tree seeds, and just be at peace. The kids played well together. We did outside school and imaginary play for a little break from bookwork.

I am using my nights to write, working on an idea I've had for awhile now, so in the mornings I'm still a bit stuck in my head, even as I get them breakfast and start our day.

Our two German Shepherds are in heat. We're going to try to mate Storm with a beautiful male down the road tomorrow, and Jewel on Monday. Maybe it will be puppies for Christmas!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Happy Birthday, Raccoon!

This month you turn five. Yes, I bought you the carnivorous plant kit you picked out, but I also have something else to give you.

I was talking on Sunday with a friend who is having serious trouble with her 8 year old son. I have been thinking about fear, and how children get so many negative messages. As parents, I think we all fear for our children's futures at some point. We wonder if we're doing enough, too little, or too much. Bad behavior points to bad parenting, right? Fear pushes parents into anger, shaming, and in some cases, violence.

There has been a lot of anger and exasperation coming out of me lately, and I want to break that cycle. I wrote the affirmation below for my friend to tell her son when they are struggling. When we fostered N and J, I would tell them a similar version whenever they were at their most difficult.

I want all of my children to grow up with this written on their hearts. That will only happen if they hear it over and over. My hope is that by affirming what I know to be true, and what I hope for, in those moments when I'm about to lose it, my perspective (and my friend's) will be restored to deal with the problem at hand:

"You are special. God loves you so much and so do I. I am glad you belong to me. You are kind, respectful, compassionate, helpful, patient, and resilient. You are capable. You can express your feelings. Your abilities will grow with practice and hard work. You are a wonderful child. God has great plans for your life. We all make bad choices sometimes, and there are consequences, but I will be here with you and I will always love you."

So Raccoon, my gift to you is to yell less and say I love you more, to tell you often how amazing you are, to help you follow your dreams, to hug you, and to spend time together (trying to hit all 5 love languages).

Happy 5th birthday to my buddy!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Only 7 Plots

So I'm reading this book and at chapter 8 I'm wondering when the author is going to get to the point. Turns out the book has 45 (!) chapters. I click over to Amazon to see how many pages it has (528!) and I stumble across a review on a different book that says there are only 7 plots in all the world's stories.

What? I must know more about this and google it. Wikipedia lets me down (all I want is a list), but I found the old and new descriptions here.

Old ones:

Man vs Man
Man vs Nature
Man vs Himself
Man vs God
Man vs Society
Man in the Middle
Man meets Woman

New ones:

Overcoming the Monster
Rags to Riches
The Quest
Voyage and Return
Comedy
Tragedy
Rebirth

I love this quote from that same blog post:

"Star Wars is a rags to riches quest where the hero overcomes the monster on a voyage and return while the Villain experiences rebirth at the end."

No wonder it's popular, it's got them all in there somewhere.

This post, on the other hand, mentions 20.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Something to Make You Smile

An eyewitness account of a miracle by Jesus from a Roman historian.

Pretty awesome.

I mean, I know my faith is true, but it's still fun to see a glimpse of the surprises God has in store for us.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Grumpy Mommy

Low energy mom. High energy kid. Introvert. Extrovert. Things have not been going well in mommyland lately. "I should be a better mommy," I tell myself frequently. Will my children even like me, or will they just remember that I was tired and grumpy all the time?

Get more sleep. This is going to be my new mommy super-secret. Things are not as bad as they seem. My son is four and my daughter is one, there is time to fix this. This is my pep talk to myself. And this post is my brain-dump so hopefully I can get some perspective.

Other things making me grumpy:

1) Teddybear almost killed a neighbor's chicken today. We rescued it from his mouth. That was my one fear with getting a puppy, that it would grow up into a chicken-killer. Teddybear is the worst eater we've had so he's still skinny despite my best efforts. Even Storm (picture below playing on the trampoline) has made a full recovery and now this skeletal puppy just won't fatten up, except apparently on my neighbor's chickens. Ugh.

2) October is my son's birthday but money is tight this year. He wants a venus flytrap growing kit he saw at the store. He's happy with such small things, his birthday will be a success as long as we do something. I know things work out. I never used to worry about money until I had kids. Working nonprofit and taking care of a family can be hard to balance. We work with people who are so poor, my money worries don't even compare, yet I have them anyway.

3) November is coming, a month that reminds me of painful things.

4) We're not doing the fun stuff I thought we would for homeschool.

5) No rain. Dusty wind.

6) Deep down it's all connected to my struggle with perfectionism and the fear that I'm not good enough, as a mom, wife, person. Except that actually, none of us are good at all. Only God. So instead of being afraid of it, I should embrace the truth and trust in God's grace. The truth is that He loves me anyway, no matter what, just like I tell Raccoon. I don't have to get everything right today, just one thing.

Lord, help me please to let go of fear and anger and be filled with Your joy instead. In Jesus name, Amen.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Book Notes: Dancing on the Head of a Pen

by Robert Benson


My Favorite Quotes:

"Most of the time, writing a book more closely resembles digging a ditch than participating in some transcendent creative experience. Who in the world needs another book anyway? There are thousands of good ones already, and some of the best ones have not been read by very many people at all... Last week while reading Buechner, I realized that if I wanted to make a contribution to the literary world, I should do his laundry and mow his grass so he would have more time to write."

"They push me to tell the truth, the hard truth about my life, as someone may be dying to hear it."

"The spiritual life is not so much about answers as it is about better questions. Writing can be the same."

Sylvia Plath, in a letter to a friend, passed on the quiet news of the weekend: “We stayed at home to write, to consolidate our outstretched selves.”


What I Thought:

This is not a book about how to write; the author assumes that you already possess the necessary skills. Instead, it is a heartening talk from an accomplished author to a newbie with a dream. He shares about his life as a writer in an honest and humorous way. I love his hat illustration for roles of the writer: artist, editor, and business man or woman.

His main point is that each of us have to find our own way, but there is hard, consistent work involved. To be published, the book does not have to be a masterpiece, but it does have to get written. Six hundred words a day, perspective, and a strong connection to the outside world are some of the things that work for him. If I ever get published, I will thank him for the encouragement.

And his book lists in the back are fantastic.



I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest (and they hope insightful) review.



Friday, October 3, 2014

So Well Said

This article sums up modern parenting and captures the fear of how it will all turn out:

"My generation, it seems, had the last of the truly low-tech childhoods, and now we are among the first of the truly high-tech parents."

I found it sad somehow to think that we are the last generation of parents to have grown up without the internet. Like childhood has been lost somehow. I think technology is amazing, don't get me wrong, but there are things I want for my kids that can't come from a screen. It is a brave new world.

I think part of my choice to live overseas and out of the city comes from this desire to give my children a simpler life, for now. My son has an iPad, but he also has a spider collection (live!) that he caught in our neighborhood. Push and pull. The world will come rushing in soon enough.

I remember another article I read about how much change humans can tolerate in a lifetime. The author wondered if there was a limit, if eventually the world became too strange for the elderly and they could no longer adapt. Will change keep coming faster and faster, things becoming obsolete before they are even popular? Every generation has feared the changes of the next, but humanity still exists.

Then there is hail and piglets and puppies, and I trust that we are going to be okay, by the grace of God.


P.S. The same day I posted this I read the essay "The Surrender of a Cockney" by G.K. Chesterton. It's funny how life connects. Here is an excerpt:

"If you will take my advice," said my friend, "you will humbly endeavor not to be a fool. What is the sense of this mad modern notion that every literary man must live in the country, with the pigs and the donkeys and the squires? ...Shakespeare and Dr. Johnson came to London because they had had quite enough of the country... You hunger and thirst after the streets; you think London the finest place on the planet."

There is definitely something to be said for the modern, technology-filled life as well. Balance.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September is the other January

Gretchen Rubin said this and it made me laugh. Yes, totally.

Give my son a science project, experiment, or anything to do with bugs/slime/reptiles and he is over the moon. Learning to read? Not so much. But today he came up to me and said, sounding out the letters "Mall. M-a-l. It starts with m-m-m." It was a hallelujah moment.

I no longer plan to adopt, but I still love adoption stories. A friend of mine with one son about Raccoon's age just added three more siblings to their family. The oldest is ten and he looks like the weight of the world has been on his shoulders. Now he gets to be a kid again, or for the first time. A blogger I follow is doing embryo adoption. What an amazing journey. I would totally do it, but my complicated little family is complete, for now.

Anything else on my mind? So Cesar's Way is totally working for us. I think it's mostly the increased exercise, his #1 recommendation. My dogs are definitely eating more! 20 pounds of dog food a week and counting. I had to buy an extra bag today. And our pack is more cohesive as a group. Life's not perfect, they still chase cars and sheep, but they do listen to me more. Teddybear has finally figured out that we're not going to hit him whenever he comes near us, and that we want him to eat. Poor thing, he had a rough start, like all our dogs. Jewel figured out how to climb an inclined rope ladder today at the school playground, and sloped wooden ladder. Smart thing. I haven't changed much to promote this doggy unity, but I do insist on going out the gate first, I make them sit at my feet if they try to jump up on me (only two of the small dogs do this), I sit with them while they eat to prevent fighting, and I don't let the big ones pick on our weakest pack member anymore. Also, when we walk, I puff out my chest and swagger while chanting, "Calm and Confident," but only if there are no neighbors around. A few local dogs want to join our pack now too, walking home with us whenever we go to the store. And a friend's German Shepherd tried to climb into our truck to go home with us after church. Must be animal magnetism working for me since I definitely don't have the same vibe going with my people leadership skills. :)

I am happy tonight, hence my random and silly tone, because I just finished another contest piece. I love the thrill of submitting something, even though I do not expect to win. But someone, somewhere, will read what I wrote. It's a start.

September is the other January because it's enough before the new year to still allow us to make significant changes. I just read a book on writing, and it's inspired me to find what works for me as a writer. And I love his book lists at the end. Saves me the time of copying his references throughout the book and looking them up.

I've been thinking of starting an online book club.

And so ends this post.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Book Notes: Rare Bird

by Anna Whiston-Donaldson

I almost didn't read this book, but I recognized the story of Jack's death from the author's blog. Seeing the book was like coming across an old friend and wanting to catch up, despite the possible pain.

As the author herself says, "My new story was a tragedy so frightening that, as parents, we feel we risk something even by thinking about it, because it whispers into our hearts a truth we don’t want to hear. That we can’t keep our children safe. That we don’t know what the future holds. We want to cover our ears, close our eyes, and turn away from the horror of that truth. And it may be how you are feeling right now—you might be tempted to run away from this book. I get that. I do." 

SB died 7 years ago and it was not easy to dive back into fresh grief, but this truly is a beautiful book. It has been a long time since I have cried such cleansing tears. The author's honesty must not have been easy but it is so, so valuable.

I know the comfort she speaks of, and it is a privilege to share in her life as Jack's mom. I love her idea that our connections endure, that I still get to be SB's mom, even in death.



Disclosure: I don't have affiliate links and I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for books in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Happy Sad

Writing a new story. Happy.

Seeing my friend's adoption pictures. Happy for her, sad that tragedy struck my family and took away our adoption dreams. My heart still aches over our family that will never be.

I have to work on our budget tonight. Blah.

Raccoon cut his head today on some metal. It bled enough to scare us all. I have been on edge ever since. I cannot keep him safe. I pray constantly. And worry. And pray some more. The first person he wanted to tell was Grampie. Sad he's hurt but oh so happy he's okay and it wasn't worse.

Sad this old tree got cut down, happy my kids could play fort.

Happy and sad everyday. And it's okay.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Old Water

That the earth's water is older than the sun makes sense to me.

2 The earth was without form and an empty waste, and darkness was upon the face of the very great deep. The Spirit of God was moving (hovering, brooding) over the face of the waters.

3 And God said, Let there be light; and there was light. (Genesis 1 AMP)

Yup, water before light.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Undisturbedness

I found this word tonight as I was reading Ephesians 1 in the Amplified version.

I think we could all use a little for of this in our lives. Undisturbedness. Little things have been annoying me lately and I have not been pleasant to be around.

Rainy season has started and the gloomy weather makes me think of Christmas in Maine. But no wood stoves here to warm up the 40 degree nights, just extra blankets and a prayer that the morning will be sunny.

All of our minds seemed to be turned Stateside. Me longing to being with family for the holidays, and Raccoon so he can catch snakes and frogs. Kitty just learned to say "Grama" and the King is exasperated with us all.

Tomorrow we are off to the one English library in the country. That will go far to restoring some undisturbedness to my life. Books for all to banish our wistful thoughts.

P.S. On Friday, I shall foray into planting a small cornfield behind our house. My neighbor was convinced that if I didn't plant today in honor of the local St. Mercedes, then my crop would fail. I hope to prove her wrong. Say a prayer for a good harvest and the chance to talk with her about spiritual things. I would like to show her that we are not slaves to punitive idols, but can be sons and daughters of our living and loving Heavenly Father. The first picture is of her beautiful rows. She is a gifted gardener.

Teddybear is very mellow and a good addition to our family pack. I hope he'll start eating better soon.

Kitty insisted on carrying the backpack on our walk today. She's quite the little firecracker. Raccoon was off at the dentist for his first cavity so he joined us later.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Book Notes: Cesar's Way

by Cesar Millan and Melissa Jo Peltier

The last male dog we owned (and raised from a puppy), we had to put down because he bit a child. It was terrible. I have had many dogs in my life, but this outright failure to raise Vaako well made me worried about Raccoon's new pet, Chief. Raccoon had his heart set on a male puppy. In recent years, my husband and I have adopted five older female dogs with proven temperaments. Then we rescued Storm, who is also female but definitely a handful. Now we are adding another unknown to the mix with Chief.

I had heard a little of Cesar's philosophy through his show, but I was looking for reassurance that we could raise this new puppy to not be aggressive. Right off the bat, the fact that Cesar keeps a pack of 35 made me feel more relaxed about going from four to five dogs.

After reading the whole book, I realized that two of our dogs seem to regard me as pack leader, one does some time, and the other apparently not at all. Morita, our little black dog, does not cause any trouble but she ignores me and does just what she pleases. It's interesting because I thought Storm was our mischief-maker, but it's actually Morita leading her astray. At least this is the way it seems to my inexperienced eye.

Reading the book was helpful and stressful all at the same time. I realized that I am not a pack leader, consistently, with my dogs nor with my children. But like he says, dogs live in the now and will respect me if my energy changes. Calm assertive. I feel stress about being in control and being able to change. He is right that it is a burden to constantly be in charge. I am better at being calm than at being assertive. I love that he titled one of his sections "Fake it till you make it." He advises his clients to project a persona if they feel anything but calm-assertive.

He also recommends exercise, discipline, and affection - in that order - as the cure for most problems with dogs. He says Americans are only good at the third one, affection. This is definitely true in my personal life, not just with my dogs.

So now the kids and I are walking the dogs before breakfast, and again in the afternoon. I haven't seen any miraculous changes yet, but I feel hopeful about Chief being a non-aggressive dog.

And on a different subject than dogs, Cesar's definition of submission answers a theological question I have had for years.... he explains it as being in a relaxed and receptive state, not aggressive or defensive. Very interesting, and functional I think for people relationships as well.


Disclosure: I wrote this post because I like sharing about the books I read, no one else was involved.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Book Notes: Forever Fluent

by Gabriel Wyner

I picked up this book because, as I mentioned, I want to learn a complicated, local language. I am only 30 words into his recommended 625, but so far so good.


Favorite Quotes:

"The real challenge lies in finding a path that conforms to the demands of a busy life."

"Every time we see a new factoid (e.g. "In AD 536, a dust cloud...), the pleasure centers of our brains burst into activity, and we click on the next link."

"I like finding ways to make life more efficient, even when finding a faster way to do something takes more time than simply doing it." (this could be the motto of my family of origin)

"Every act of recall imbues old memories with a trace of your present-day self."


My Thoughts:

Anyone considering this book probably wants to know, does it work? Yes, I would say it does. But like all language learning, you have to put in the effort to get results.

His modern approach made sense to me, and as a previous language learner, it seemed like a lot more fun than traditional methods. It does take time, but he explains why it is the very time that you take to create your own materials that makes his approach more effective than a premade program. Think of it like this, the kid in school who made the study guide for the big test usually didn’t need it by the time he or she was done. The learning is in the process.

His method is modern in the sense that it takes into account brain research, the internet’s global access, memory games, and the key element to learning – fun. Reading the book will make you laugh if you’ve ever tried to learn another language, because the author’s examples are spot on. His steps include: sound play, word play, sentence play, writing, talking, and watching TV.

I recommend a read-and-do approach to each section instead of trying to read the book straight through (like I did). He does give a summary in the final chapter, but the difference is in the details, the how and why of his approach. His explanation of why we remember things (or don’t) is fascinating and worth a read for its own sake. He offers the adult learner something scarce in the realm of language acquisition – hope. I also see great potential in the book for creating a faster, functional program for people who want to learn English, or perhaps even other skills.

That moment when you can fully understand and communicate in a foreign language is magical, and Wyner provides a clear path to achieving that goal. If you are looking for a one-stop reference book for an effective and fun language learning system, then this is it.


P.S. I would rate the book PG-13 due to a brief explanation of explicit memory tricks and a few other questionable examples.


Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed here are my own. Anytime on my blog that you don't see this disclosure at the end of my "book notes," it means I just read the book and want to share. This is my first review for Blogging for Books and I'm excited because... free books!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Welcome Teddybear (our new puppy)

So we have a new puppy again. Raccoon saw a $225 puppy at the mall and fell in love. We compromised with a $10 mutt from the market, even though I did not want to go back. Fortunately, this time there were fewer puppies and they were in better condition. I wanted the wrinkly face puppy, but a man beat me to her.

Chief was in a box under a cage of kittens (all of which Kitty wanted to take home). He was the only large mix available, most were poodle and cocker spaniel size. I asked if we could see him. The lady (the same one who sold Knight to us) said he had already been sold. Then when she saw we weren't interested in any others, she offered him to us. Raccoon was delighted and paid for him with a gift from his Abuela. Raccoon thought of calling his puppy Turbo, Thunder, but finally settled on Chief, like the old dog in the Fox and the Hound. ETA: We changed the name to Teddybear because yelling Chief sounded funny (like Chifa, Sifu, etc.)


Saturday, September 13, 2014

An Essay in Quotes: the Need for Approval

The internet allows us to see a life of choices different than our own.

"Just because you made a different choice doesn't mean that I made the wrong one." - Me

"I'm OK, she's OK... there are many ways to be a good mother." - MotherStyles

Vi Hart's Guide to Comments - "Maybe you care because you haven't decided yet who you are and who you want to please... I am not afraid."

"Write what you like and the rest will follow." - Me

"The best way to get approval is not to need it. (Key 28)" Hugh MacLeod

All of this touches on the consumerism debate which I won't get into except to mention some great guidelines - People Planet Product

"Happiness is, after all, a consumption ethic." - Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion



(No affiliate links, I just like to show you what I'm talking about.)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Pondering: Observation

"I find that I am most creative and insightful when consciously observing human behavior. Observe yourself. Observe others. Seek anomalies. You never know what insights you might uncover."

Today's Behaviors, Tomorrow's Startups by Ryan Hoover


Many people wonder: what makes human beings creative? I have read books on the subject, but this is my favorite explanations so far.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Words as Music

"For many... grammar usage comes naturally. They often can hear mistakes, as if they were listening to music." (found here)

Now that I am writing again, I am also editing. My favorite high school teacher, Mr. Q, told us to read our work out loud to hear its flow. My mother is currently my editor as well. She has a knack for clarifying things or letting me know if there's no spark. If I don't succeed as a writer, I think editor would be my next choice. Ah, the thrill of chopping up someone else's work to find the heart of the matter. But I would have to create a ruthless alter-ego because I have trouble telling people the truth if I think it will hurt their feelings.

This quote also reminds me of the way I learned Spanish. I had been speaking it for a year with my friends before I took a single class. When the teacher wanted me to fill in the blanks, I just tested out the options to see which one sounded right.

My Grampie George is a story-teller and there is music in his voice. His wife, Grammie Joyce, said that I used to ask him questions I already knew the answer to, just to hear him talk. Grampie is my last living grandparent. I miss him and his stories.

Today is September 11. It's been 13 years.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book Notes: The Secret Life of Objects

by Dawn Raffel

Okay, so I only read a few pages of this one. I like the thought but not the execution. She wrote down her memories of different objects, but in general, I couldn't relate to her stories. I did, however, find two quotes that I liked:

"All memoir is fiction. We try to fit the pieces together again."

"Sometimes things shatter. More often they fade." (on wineglasses and friendships)

I have long pondered about friendships. There seems to be a frequency of interaction needed to sustain them that is not easily provided in the adult world. In high school or college, you are thrown together with the same bunch of people repeatedly. There is time to build up from general knowledge to intimacy, even if you would not have chosen them in the first place as friends. As adults, we have more choice and less time. At the end of the day, few people stay within reach.

I wrote this draft on 11/16/13, and just today read a post with similar ideas about the "Time/Depth Dilemma," a fascinating look at different cultural ways of making friends.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Book Notes: Catching Fire

I met up with a friend last summer (2013) and we got around to chatting about books. We moved on to movie adaptations and she said that Catching Fire, the second in The Hunger Games trilogy, was probably confusing to movie-goers who hadn't read the book. This pique my curiosity, having only watched the first movie, which I was repelled by because it was exactly what the author was supposedly attacking in her book, that watching people die was entertainment. Granted, in the movie the people do not die for real, obviously, but I still did not find young people killing each other "entertaining." A catch-22 for the author in some ways, because what she was against was exactly what would be most portrayed in a visual versus print medium.

Fast-forward a few months and I saw books one and two on another friend's shelf. The first book went along pretty much as I'd expected, having watched the movie, but Catching Fire, the second book, left me wishing that the author had made some different choices.

As much as I tried, I just could not like the main character, Katniss. In the first book, it's to be expected that she's a victim and struggling to comes to terms with what is happening. But in the second book, she has supposedly embraced her role as rebel, after realizing that even playing by the capitol's rules won't keep her safe. Yet she has no idea what is going on. I could forgive this perhaps, if the book were not written in first person. I wanted to be in on some secret plot, not contemplating how many times she was waxed or shaved by her stylists.

Katniss misses obvious clues that the author plants, like the man at the party showing her his mockingjay watch. She has contacts she does not use for information, like the mayor's daughter. She does not talk about things with the other characters. The goal was to get the comfortable capitol people to resist as well, so she could have at least asked her three upset stylists to talk about how unfair her imminent death was. She also could have said the wedding dress converting to a mockingjay was her idea since designing was supposed to be her hobby and she was about to die anyway, instead she lets Cinna be arrested.  For being the supposed icon of the rebellion, she doesn't seem to be of much use at all.

And the head game designer a rebel? It seems like the author could have used that more to Katniss' advantage, such as putting in some secret helps or less-deadly things somehow, or at least giving her more information.

What I really wanted to happen was for the players to band together and refuse to play at all. They were past winners, they had already played by the rules and won, yet here they were again, set up to die. It seemed to me like they would have revolted from playing by the rules a second time around. Why play by the rules when the people who set the rules are accountable to no one and can change them at will? What a powerful scene that could have been, for them to have secretly arranged to not fight each other. Would the game makers try to kill them off? Would they stop televising the game? Perhaps the players could survive within the clock with the help of the rebel game designer, and then what would the capitol do?

The book did not take this turn.

Catching Fire is one of the few books where I enjoyed the screenplay more than the original. For me, Katniss is a stronger character onscreen then in the book. To be fair to the author, I am not a huge fan of dystopian worlds; I want things to work out. I also like characters who tell it like it is and speak their minds. My preferences are not her fault, so I must also point out that Suzanne Collins did an amazing job creating a believable, alternate world and characters I could care about.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Book Notes: Cradles of Eminence

I read this book (not an affiliate link I just thought you might be curious) while we were in the U.S., so this post has been sitting in my draft folder for awhile. I declare this Book Note Week (I need to find a more catchy title) on my blog to motivate me to post a few more I have sitting around half done. I do these reviews just because I love to read and talk about books.

Favorite Quotes:

"As shown repeatedly in Cradles of Eminence, parental involvement is critical for bright students to reach their potential."

"The mothers in our audiences enjoy hearing about the troubles... then rebel against our recital of woeful facts and assume falsely that we advocate mistreatment of children as a way of stimulating creativity. ...we have no intention of becoming ogres at home on the off chance that one of our own three sons may become a playright or a novelist."

"It may be currently possible to be both creative and comfortable. We suspect it isn't, but our suspicions are not scientific data."

"Facing the hard fact that serenity and creativity have not been compatible in the homes that have cradled eminence is in itself a frustrating experience, but frustration is a necessary prelude to insight."

"...the kind of adjustment that the majority of the fifteen hundred gifted children studied by Terman made. They were competent to a degree far beyond the average person on the street; although they achieved highly, they did not make any original contributions. Even so, they were well-recognized in society."

"Louis Koren, Detroit psychiatrist, once observed that the chief need of children is to be enjoyed."


My Thoughts:

If you pick up this book looking for a recipe for raising eminent children, don't. As the quotes above imply, the authors found out that many of the most creative children were from very dysfunctional homes. The authors defined "eminence" as a certain number of biographies in their local library. Although a very interesting read, this book was mostly a collection of abridged biographies focusing on early childhood elements. I was hoping for more comparative insights, but I did find the connection between the discord or harmony at home and professions chosen by the children very interesting.

The book did bring up an excellent question, one that I am still pondering: Why do so many bright/promising/gifted children become experts in their fields, but do not produce groundbreaking or innovative work? The book discusses this question in the context of siblings, often they seemed equally capable but only one became "eminent."

Friday, September 5, 2014

Dear Jesus

I'm sorry that I don't speak about you as often as I should. Help me to be bold. You have done so much for me.

Love
RAG

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

RIP Sunflower

I've decided that country living is very hard on pets. Sunflower, our orange and white female cat at the top of the photo, hasn't been home since Sunday morning, so we suspect the worst. She was not a friendly cat but she would purr whenever she saw me and my bed was her favorite. She loved napping with Kitty. We'll miss you, Sunflower.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

My First Writing Contest

As I mentioned yesterday, it didn't feel right to submit SB's story (one small part of it), to this contest, so that left me with one day to come up with a new entry. Raccoon woke up in a very bad mood, even for him, and refused to get out of bed. Today is church and my husband is the pastor, so I usually try to go. We went to a wedding last night and were all dragging this morning. I promised my son a story if he got in the car, which alleviated his mood long enough to change his pants and get his shoes on.

The true story I told him was about his great-grandmother, and her decision late in life to do only the things she wanted to do. After I told him that part of her story and how it ended (unfortunately not well), the idea for my new essay was born. Because I loved my Grammie very much and she was good to me, I felt bad writing about one of her weaknesses. I tried to write honestly yet in a way that also showed my love for her. My Grammie turned out to be my grumpy guru, and I will be forever grateful.




I submitted it twenty minutes before the deadline, not as well edited as I would have liked, but hopefully good enough. For a minute it felt like I was back in college, pulling an all-nighter to get a paper done. :)

Wish me luck!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

On Writing

I have started writing again. I snatch a moment here and there when I can. Poetry and essays are my two favorite forms at this point. I wrote about part of SB's story for a contest, but it just doesn't feel right to submit it because I would lose the copyright to what I wrote. Maybe I won't ever be published, and that's okay, but it feels good to be creative again.

Below are some random quotes on writing that have been accumulating in my draft folder:

Plain truth is this. Great, you get published. But, if you don’t sell enough books, you cannot quit your day job. If you fail to sell out your print run, you hurt your chances of another book contract. In order to do what you love–WRITE–you must learn to do what you hate–SELL. It doesn’t have to be as hard as a lot of people make it. Brand your name, then your name can do the selling while you do the writing. - Kristen Lamb

When we aren’t grounded in the reality of what it takes to be successful, we’re vulnerable to barbs from the outside world, because, remember…many of them have fantastical thinking, too. Kristen Lamb

Ann Lamott, one of my writing heroes who almost single-handedly saved my Christian faith from a life-sucking, soul-crushing abyss, suggests that writers use fiction to safely tell their truths. Chloe of the Mountain

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Obscure Words

I should be sleeping but I'm having some fun with the random phrase generator I've mentioned before. I'm also looking for a creative username which is what took me there in the first place. These caught my eye until I looked them up!

apishamore (saddle blanket)
dacninae (honeycreeper - a tropical American songbird)
pholadidae (mollusks)
sarcosporidian (parasite)
zucchetto (skullcap)
obreption (obtaining something by giving false info)
equisetum (horsetail - a nonflowering plant)
wapentake (subdivision of a country in northern England)

It was about here that I decided to go with a local slang word as my username instead, fascinating as this is.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The baba

Raccoon was never interested in a comfort object, but Kitty loves her baba. I cut off a piece of her favorite blanket to take to the beach in June and they are now inseparable. Except when she shares her baba with Morita, her favorite dog.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Earthquake Kit Packed

I now have a first aid kit and survival box wrapped in plastic and sitting in my back yard, with smaller versions in our car. Honestly, it feels a little ridiculous, but peaceful too. If we have a minor emergency we can sit out back and eat tuna and chocolate.

I pray for no major catastrophes.

Walking through the hardware store trying to visualize what I would need if life as we knew it ended was a stressful experience. What if the one thing I needed to save my child's life wasn't in the box?

I pray things never come to that.

I have not felt a quake since Sunday morning and life goes on.
Raccoon is currently obsessed with frogs. Kitty is having a language explosion. The four of us are all okay and I am so very, very thankful.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

In a moment

everything can change.

We are all okay, but a little shaken up by a natural disaster. You can tell my frame of mind from how I misread a blogger's self-description: "homeschool mom passionate about family life, traveling, cultural heritage, and staying alive."

I thought, "You got that right!" before I reread the sentence and realized that she actually wrote "staying active." Oh.

There are many things I realized this week that I've taken for granted, mostly because they've neen taken away out here in ruralandia.

Running water, clean water, or just any water at all.

Electricity, and with it internet and frozen food.

Solid, steady, nonmoving ground is the newest one on the list.

My brain keeps telling my heart we're all okay, but my heart is wondering, "If a bigger disaster comes, how will I keep my children safe?"

Earthquakes as a teen: Woohoo! More! More! Maybe school will be cancelled.

Earthquakes as a parent of young children: Never again will be soon enough.

Robin Williams

Perhaps if he had known how appreciated he was, he might not have taken his own life. I feel sad that now he'll never see how many lives he touched. There are many burdens that come with being gifted.
If you know someone who is depressed, reach out. And if it's you, please don't be afraid to ask for help. And keep asking. The world needs you.

Monday, August 11, 2014

I want to make up a word

Some recent favorites that I've seen:
flawesome
perspecticles
Ones I may have mentioned before:
hangry
brutiful
frenemy
However, I do not seem to have this word-making gift. I love two odd words together especially. So for now I'll keep on collecting the ones I find and like.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Puppy Love

Our neighbor has puppies. We're NOT planning on bringing any home, but they are fun.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

RIP Zucchini

Let's just say that this hasn't been a good month for us.

Hamsters smell, so I moved the cage into the schoolroom for the night. We leave the window open in there for the cats and it must have gotten cold last night. We were off to church in a hurry so I didn't check on him until late afternoon when we got home. He was lying on his side with his feet stuck out and barely breathing.

Picture a very large, Latin family all concerned about the hamster and giving home remedies. We'd put some grass in his cage so I thought maybe he'd eaten something. Raccoon was very upset so I thought doing something was better than nothing for his sake. I gave Zucchini some cooking oil, supposedly to try to make him throw up.

He agonized for several more hours, but he just didn't die. Right at bedtime it occurred to me: I wonder if he's hibernating? I looked up some info online and then filled a sock with warm rice which I put under him.

Sure enough, Zucchini started to wake up. Unfortunately, then he choked on the oil left over in his throat and he tried to throw up over and over again. Then he died. Poor thing. I take responsibility for this one.

Raccoon was much more upset about Zucchini than Knight, probably because they were constantly together.

This time we held out on the "no more pets" and we're off to a small amusement park tomorrow as consolation.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Seven Years

SB would have turned 9 this year. She died 7 years ago, July 28. It seems like yesterday and a lifetime ago. I miss her, but I am glad that she is pain-free now and perfectly happy with Jesus. She made me a mommy, 8 years ago.

We love you, SB, and miss you.

Hello Zucchini

Thursday, July 24, 2014

RIP Knight

After a dubious start, Knight won all of our hearts. He was a good-natured pup and joined our playful pack quickly. Our four females liked him and he was growing like a weed. I felt concerned that he was going to be a big dog after all. He was half husky, half ? but he was all pup. He loved to snuggle with us and was happiest when he was closest to Raccoon.


I did an ice sensory bin today with Raccoon and Kitty, but it was the biggest hit with Knight. He happily chewed on the ice chunks and chased everyone around. We went inside to take a much needed bath and my husband came home early to surprise us. Knight was in our yard when my husband drove up the driveway, but at some point he ran underneath the car. The King felt awful that he ran him over, but at least he died quickly.


Knight, we will miss your snuggles, your puppy kisses, and soft, thick fur. We will miss your roly poly belly and one blue eye. We will miss your excited eating and grateful tail wags. Gerry (our male cat) will miss your naptime snuggles and playfulness too. You were turning into a beautiful dog. I wish we could have seen you grow up.

16 great days full of puppy napping, eating, 
a few potty accidents, snuggling, and playing.

RIP Knight


Monday, July 21, 2014

Kitty Love

Kitty and our three kitties are being nice to each other. Nothing makes her happier than some good furry snuggles. Although honestly, the kitties mostly prefer her when she's asleep.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Point to Ponder: Dissent

A consistent minority can sway the majority.

          - From the TV show NUMB3RS

I remember hearing in college that Quaker leaders require all decisions to be unanimous (I do not know if this is, in fact, true). At the time, I thought that was unresonable.

But now, as the chairperson of a non-profit board, I have learned the power of the minority voice. Often, the few who disagree with the majority have valid concerns.

I think one of the strengths, and weaknesses, of being human is that we can be persuaded.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Pictures as Promised

Now that I have studied him a bit more, I think Knight is half Husky. He has one blue eye (the other is brown), very thick fur, and looks a bit wolfish. He's a quick learner which is good and he follows Raccoon around, so all is well.